2023: year of the shirtdress, for real this time

Matilda shirtdress front

“Yes, Erin, we’ve heard this before,” you say, and you’d be right—I don’t want to go back and search, but I’m pretty sure I’ve declared several previous Years of the Shirtdress, and then made … one. If that.

This time, though … that above is my third Matilda shirtdress, and I’m planning on making quite a few more. I actually bought the original non-curve-sized Matilda pattern yonks ago, realized how much work it was going to be to curvenize it (that’s the technical term), and it promptly went to the bottom of the pile. So when the curve version came out I was pretty enthusiastic, and the pile got shuffled somewhat.

Matilda shirtdress back view

I’ve since made it three times; this is the latest iteration. I will post the other two anon, but I wanted to get this posted sooner, because … well, I like it!

It’s not perfect by any means; the collar is a bit wonky on the left-hand edge (I might be able to just re-press it tho):

Matilda shirtdress collar

I like lots of things about this pattern: first off, the pockets are a good size, and patch pockets so very easy. The sleeve bands are fun, too:

Matilda shirtdress sleeve band

I’m looking forward to really playing around with stripes and plaids next, because this pattern goes together really well.

There were some changes made: I had to raise the bust point a bit (but the pattern designer actually has a great tutorial for this). I think the collar stand is too tall, so I shortened it (and I might narrow the collar, too). I’d love to try this with a flat (Peter Pan) collar, but I haven’t wrapped my mind around that change yet. I also did the waistband buttonholes horizontally, instead of vertically, because that just feels better? Idk. Because this fabric is lightweight, I used hem binding instead of the ‘fold twice and sew’ method because I wanted a little extra weight. Next go-round I’m going to only use this (very good) fusible interfacing for the collar stand and front bands, and use organza for the waistband and the collar.

The pattern instructions want you to sew the bands to the front, flip them to the back, and then topstitch, but I am not nearly patient enough for that nonsense, so I did it the opposite way around. (This review has better instructions than that, search the page for ‘reverse method’.) With the reverse method you’re topstitching on the edge that needs to be sewn down, so you can focus on the topstitching bit, and not the “am I catching the loose edge on the side of the dress I can’t see” bit.

This fabric is (I think) Liberty Mark Tana lawn; I mean, it’s definitely the Mark pattern, I just can’t find a record of this colorway. I’m not usually a navy-blue person (I ended up using all my navy thread sewing this, and had to cheat with a little bit of a blue-purple in places). I figured this would be a good test run for whether this fabric works in Tana lawn, because I really like the print and it is SO BUSY that any little bobbles would be hidden, a kind of Where’s Waldo, but for sewing mistakes. It is also still kind of coldish here so I can wear this over a long-sleeved black tee and leggings. (Mixing navy and black is how you can tell the real fashion pros from the wannabees, right?)

On the easy-to-wear scale, where 10 is “pajamas you’ve had for >5 years” and 0 is “actual suit of armor” this is a solid 7. It hangs nicely, there’s good arm mobility with sleeve bands, the pockets are well-placed and ample, and the fit is trim without being constricting.

I won’t kid you—any shirtdress pattern is just going to be a lot of work. This one has a lot of pieces, and buttonholes, and interfacing, and a collar and and and … it’s definitely a “one bite at a time” pattern and not a “cut out Saturday morning, wear it Saturday night” pattern. I tried keeping track of how long it took me to complete each stage, and I’m pretty sure this was a 5-8 hour sew (for comparison, a dress like this is usually a 3-4 hour sew). Plus I generally like to approach buttonholes well-rested, after a light stretching session, and properly caffeinated ….

You might notice a new background to the pics—I’m now nicely settled in to my new sewing space! That’s a new dress form, too (her name is Dot, for obvious reasons). My previous dress form (RIP) was bought in the last century and succumbed to terminal foam-disintegration disease. That white drawer-thingy next to the dress in the first picture? That’s full of bias tape. Full, I tell you. (It’s not a problem, I’m sure I’ll use it all up before I die …)

Stay tuned for more Matildas, perhaps an Isca, and a vintage shirtdress! Really!

It’s the only way to live/In cars

Once again I reflexively reached for the bodice from Simplicity 2389 and that BurdaStyle Heidi skirt:
Liberty Cars dress

This one is Liberty print—a piece of fabric I have had for a long time. I think this pattern is from 2009, but I’m not sure; it could be earlier.

Liberty cars dress piping

Ironically, it was purging so many dresses that finally led me to cut into this long-hoarded fabric … even the fabrics that I loved the most (yeah, looking at you, popsicle print) only gave me a kind of “happy to have known you” feeling as I packed them up to ship them to new wearers.

So with this empirical evidence reassuring me that it is unlikely that I will wish I’d saved some special fabric for some theoretically ‘better’ use*, snip snip went the scissors into this Liberty!

Liberty cars dress back

I’ve worn this a couple times so far and it has made me very happy. Beep!

(Oh, and speaking of the Dress Purge of 2017 … there are a few dresses left, but August 6 I will be sending whatever hasn’t been purchased off to Goodwill and tallying up the totals.)

(*also it looks like this fabric is still available from third-party sellers in a different colorway)

Winter Dress: Embryonic Stage

I just got this Liberty Lantana fabric for a winter dress:


Looking forward to the long process of finding JUST THE RIGHT COLOR PIPING to use with this. (It’s probably going to be another dress like this one; I’m a sucker for a fabrics with a dark ground and bright designs!)

Lantana is the Liberty wool/cotton blend—I think it’s 80% cotton, 20% wool. It’s a dream to sew with and it’s very warm. Perfect winter fabric!

I need this for an event in February, so now this just has to arrive at warp speed from the UK (and my sewing machine has to make a speedy return from the repair shop)!

Do you have any winter dress plans?

YAWD (yet another winterish dress)

I made another dress like this one, right down to also using Liberty Lantana fabric:

Simplicity 2389 w/Heidi Skirt

The name of this particular print is “Haberdashery”, and I fell in love with the weird faux-patchwork:

Simplicity 2389 bodice

(“Haberdashery” is a fairly stupid name to call a Liberty print, because it is nigh-unGoogleable, but here it is at Shaukat iffen you need some. Looks like it comes in a nice bright blue, too.)

And OF COURSE there is piping:
Simplicity 2389 piping of course

And on the pockets:

Simplicity 2389 pocket piping

Here’s the zipper (bonus piping view):
Simplicity 2389 zipper

And the back:
Simplicity 2389 back

I forgot to take a picture, but the neck facing is the same plaid as in the flower print (or near-enough as makes no nevermind). (Because that’s the sort of thing that makes me weirdly happy.)

This variation has a much longer skirt, nearly tea-length, so that it looks better (in my head) with ankle boots. (Does it actually look better? Who knows.) If you want to see how it looks on, I wore it to give this talk.

Stealth Liberty of London?

I feel like this fabric (at Mood) is a Liberty print, but I can’t find verification of it:
give me liberty or give me stealth

I ordered some (because duh, and because I hadn’t spent my fabric allowance for February OR March) and it doesn’t feel like Tana Lawn, but might feel like the Liberty poplin range — I couldn’t tell for sure. There’s also no marking in the selvedge. It’s also available in blue. This one looks Libertyesque, too.

Why isn’t there a Liberty fabric wiki where you can search for prints by name, year, color, type, key words, etc.? If I didn’t have roughly eleventy-hundred projects going on right now, I’d be making it. Everyone could take photos of their stash with rulers for reference and there’d be badges and wishlists and swap lists and Etsy links and … stop me, please. (Or do it yourself! I’ll be an advisor.)

Speaking of projects, followers of this here blog might be interested to read this in the New York Times today.

Another winter dress

Here’s another January-appropriate dress, although I made this back in October, to wear to talk at Pop!Tech. (That there is a video link.)

galaxy dress

Specifics: it’s Liberty Lantana, but I don’t remember the pattern name — if you search for Liberty Lantana on eBay this one always comes up. (Lantana is the winter-perfect cotton/wool blend. Super soft, nicely warm, and wrinkle-resistant. Probably my favorite Liberty fabric type.) It’s the Simplicity 2389 bodice with the (heavily modified) Burdastyle Heidi skirt.

galaxy dress bodice

For colder weather I’ve been wearing this with a long-sleeved black t-shirt under it. And by “colder weather,” (sorry non-Californians) I mean around low 50s F. Below you can see the colorway — it’s mostly black, with a bunch of blue-y grays and a little warm taupe.

galaxy dress shoulder piping

I used the extra-fat piping cord to make this piping. It’s very satisfying.

galaxy dress zipper

Here’s the zipper & pocket (also piped) in a washed out photo. (Honestly, #nofilter, my phone is just not that great.)

galaxy dress back, at a jaunty angle

And the back, with my dress form at a jaunty (not to say off-kilter) angle.

I’ve taken a little break from this pattern but it’s calling to me again. The bodice is probably one of the most comfortable I’ve ever worn, and even those tricky-looking shoulders sew up easily. I’m thinking the next version will probably have a longer skirt (this one is knee length) and we’ll see how that proportion looks. I have some more Lantana …

Progress Report: Slow

Not a lot of sewing going on in my atelier lately. Holidays, and a huge press of work*. You know, the usual.

One dress has been hanging on the hook where I keep the in-progress projects for more than a month. Okay, it’s not really a hook, it’s one of those orange spring clamps that photographers use for backdrops, clamped to the worn Ikea Ivar shelf of the bookcases I’ve had since Ivar was invented (fun fact: ‘Ivar’ means “you have too many effing books” in Swedish).

The fabric is some really beautiful army green twilled wool/cotton blend. I mean, totally gorgeous, and sure to be warm and comfy. (It did smell a little like wet sheep when I washed it, though.)

It’s supposed to be another version of this dress. The two others I’ve made from this pattern are really comfortable and great for layering and just the right length for winter so I really want to get this off the hook and onto my back. (When will this happen?  ¯_(ツ)_/¯)

Here’s a quick glimpse so you can see what I’m talking about. Of course the facings are Liberty: new McCalls 6726 w/Liberty facing

That pattern is Liberty “Mike” — it first appeared on this blog as this dress. I also made this dress in the gray colorway but I’m not sure if I ever blogged it. (It also comes in pink and a very 70s green combo that I really want.)

So: first new year’s resolution: finish this darn dress. Then we can get to the other ones, like “create a better system for keeping track of my patterns” and “only purchase one piece of fabric a month”. (I already bought January’s fabric. On January 1.)

What’s on your in-progress hook?

* The work stuff: Wordnik.com is becoming a non-profit, and to support the site we’ve started an “adopt-a-word” program! You can adopt your favorite word here.

Dots at Liberty

Schlesinger Liberty (Simplicity 2452) bodice

I don’t think I’ve posted about this yet — it’s a hybrid Frankendress of Liberty Schlesinger (which I’ve used before and still think looks like a cricket-ball print) with the bodice from Simplicity 2452 and the same skirt (only deeper pleats) as this dress (Simplicity 5238). Okay, that was confusing. Perhaps the pictures will make it easier:

Here’s the (added) side pockets and side zipper:
Schlesinger Liberty (Simplicity 2452) pocket

The deep back pleat in the skirt:
Schlesinger Liberty (Simplicity 2452) back skirt

The collar (you can see the mustardy bias tape I used to finish it — probably should have used gray. (It matched more in my head.)
Schlesinger Liberty (Simplicity 2452) front collar and facing

I used the Fashion Incubator method on this collar, and it rolled really nicely at the edge:
Schlesinger Liberty (Simplicity 2452) collar

Here’s the whole back view:
Schlesinger Liberty (Simplicity 2452) back view

I made this three different times early this spring but I suppose I never got around to posting them? A search doesn’t turn anything up. I have pictures of the other two as well, so I’ll try to get them up soon.

Piping Merrily Along

This dress is all about the piping:
Liberty Mark Simplicity 2389 piping closeup

Okay, it’s also about being in one of my all-time favorite Liberty prints, Mark, but mostly it’s about this gathered-shoulder silhouette:
Liberty Mark Simplicity 2389 bodice with piping

And if you’re going to pipe the shoulder seams, you must pipe the pockets as well (it’s the law):
Liberty Mark Simplicity 2389 pocket

The shoulder piece makes this really nicely satisfying curved seam at the back neck (ignore my rolling-facing issues):
Liberty Mark Simplicity 2389 back bodice closeup

The shoulder/sleeve has a turnunder for hemmish purposes, which is a feature I always like. Makes things simpler:

Here’s the back view, a bit wrinkly as I wore this for a few hours before taking these pictures:
Liberty Mark Simplicity 2389 back view

Last but not least, the full front view:
Liberty Mark Simplicity 2389 dress

This pattern is Simplicity 2389 (well, for the bodice, the skirt is that much-adjusted Simplicity 5238). (All rollover text in this post from the Piping Design Handbook.)

There’s still something wonky going on with the side bodice seams, and the fabric is a bit light for the deep front pleat, but I really like this dress. It’s very light and comfortable without feeling skimpy (although the front V is slightly lower than I usually wear). The sleeves are great for full range of motion (have you realized that too-tight armholes are one of my pet peeves, yet?)

There’s another version of this in a heart-print voile, that’s in pieces on my sewing table — hope to have it finished and posted soon.

Another Frankendress

Liberty Matches Frankendress

So this is the same pattern (or lack thereof) as the last dress, only in this Liberty fabric that I adore. Look, they’re little matches! (It’s called “Strike” and Shaukat still has some in the green colorway which is *almost* as adorable.)
Liberty Matches Frankendress Bodice

Because Tana lawn is so light, I piped the pockets:

Liberty Matches Frankendress Pocket
The zipper’s not terrible:

Liberty Matches Frankendress zipper

Unfortunately, this dress suffers from some of the same problems as the last version. Plus a few more, for variety!

Something is wonky with the back neck:
Liberty Matches Frankendress Back Neck

And oh lord the hem. This is terribly wrong:

Liberty Matches Frankendress Hem


This bodice is the one from my old friend Simplicity 1577, minus the collar, plus this new heavily-altered Simplicity 5238 skirt that I am obsessed with. (You can see yet another version here.)

I haven’t yet followed through on all the suggestions from the last post (THANK YOU THEY ARE SO HELPFUL) with the exception of having purchased and read the Betzina Fast Fit book, which I think will be very useful. Especially for that back hem thing, which is even slightly worse on, if you can imagine it.

I managed to take a lot of long-overdue pictures this past Sunday, so you’ll be seeing some new dresses this week!